Death toll at 9 in Omaha mall shooting
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) ” A man opened fire with a rifle at a busy department store Wednesday, killing eight people before taking his own life, in an attack that made holiday shoppers run screaming through a mall and barricade themselves in dressing rooms. Five more people were wounded, two critically.
The gunman left a suicide note that was found at his home by relatives, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the shooting. Omaha television station KETV reported that the note said he wanted to “go out in style.”
Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a third-floor balcony of the Von Maur store.
The gunman was found dead on the third floor with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and his victims were discovered on the second and third floors, police said.
“My knees rocked. I didn’t know what to do, so I just ran with everybody else,” said Kevin Kleine, 29, who was shopping with her 4-year-old daughter at the Westroads Mall, in a prosperous neighborhood on the city’s west side. She said she hid in a dressing room with four other shoppers and an employee.
“Everybody was scared, and we didn’t know what was going on,” said Belene Esaw-Kagbara, 31, a Von Maur employee. “We didn’t know what to do. I was praying that God protect us.”
Mickey Vickory, who worked at Von Maur’s third-floor service department, said she heard shots at about 1:50 p.m.
She and her co-workers and customers went into a back closet behind the wrapping room to hide, then emerged about a half-hour later when police shouted to come out with their hands up. As police took them to another part of the mall for safety, they saw the victims.
“We saw the bodies and we saw the blood,” she said.
Sgt. Teresa Negron said the gunman killed eight people, then apparently killed himself. His name was not immediately released, and authorities gave no motive for the attack and did not know whether he said anything during the rampage.
Police received a 911 call from someone inside the mall, and shots could be heard in the background, Negron said. By the time officers arrived six minutes later, the shooting was over, she said.
Keith Fidler, another Von Maur employee, said he heard a burst of five to six shots followed by 15 to 20 more rounds. Fidler said he huddled in the corner of the men’s clothing department with about a dozen other employees until police yelled to get out of the store.
A witness, Shawn Vidlak, said the shots sounded like a nail gun. At first he thought it was noise from construction work at the mall.
“People started screaming about gunshots,” Vidlak said. “I grabbed my wife and kids we got out of there as fast as we could.”
Shortly after the shooting, which came three weeks before Christmas, a group of shoppers came out of the building with their hands raised. Some were still holding shopping bags.
Police told people to park their cars at businesses across from the mall and to wait for their loved ones, then directed them to an Omaha hotel to await information.
President Bush was in Omaha on Wednesday for a fundraiser, but left about an hour before the shooting.
The sprawling, three-level mall has more than 135 stores and restaurants. It gets 14.5 million visitors every year, according to its Web site.
It was the second mass shooting at a mall this year. In February, nine people were shot, five of them fatally, at Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City. The gunman, 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, was shot and killed by police.
Associated Press writers Anna Jo Bratton, Josh Funk, Timberly Ross and Eric Olson in Omaha and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.
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